The Miami Hurricanes felt unbelievably fortunate to get their first eight games played.
Then everything started to fall apart.
The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Saturday night that the University of Miami’s game scheduled for next Saturday, Dec. 5, at Wake Forest, has been postponed because of “positive [COVID-19] tests, subsequent quarantining and contact tracing with the Wake Forest football team.’’
The Hurricanes (7-1, 6-1 ACC), who were ranked 10th last Tuesday in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, already had their games last Saturday (Nov. 21) and this weekend (Nov. 28) postponed because of a Miami coronavirus outbreak. The outbreak included Miami head coach Manny Diaz, who announced on Nov. 20 that he tested positive.
Per UM, the ACC is trying to find potential opponents for the Hurricanes next weekend, but it’s too soon to know for sure what will happen. Florida State, for example, has missed its last two games, the most recent against Virginia on Saturday because of an outbreak in the FSU program. If FSU couldn’t play its game next week at ACC-member Duke, the Blue Devils might be an option for the Hurricanes.
When asked if he expects the ACC to schedule a different opponent for the Hurricanes next weekend, Miami athletic director Blake James told the Miami Herald, “I wouldn’t say ‘expect,’ but I do believe they will evaluate all options.’’
UM already had to reshuffle its previously scheduled final three games of the regular season, which resulted in the Wake game being moved to Dec. 5, the North Carolina game being moved to Dec. 12 at Hard Rock Stadium and the Georgia Tech game being moved to the regular-season finale Dec. 19 at Hard Rock (but only if UM is not in the ACC title game).
As the season winds down, the options to squeeze in different opponents become increasingly difficult.
Minutes after UM defeated Virginia Tech 25-24 in its last game Nov. 14, Diaz said the Canes had been “on the brink” of having that game postponed as well. Miami had 13 players unavailable for Virginia Tech, including several offensive and defensive linemen.
Diaz spoke to reporters Wednesday for the first time since testing positive, saying UM would resume practice Monday after its long break because of COVID-19, and that he would be there. But he conceded that he wouldn’t know until this coming week how many of his players and staff would be unavailable.
COVID’s ‘relentless nature’
“The floodwaters finally caught up to us,’’ Diaz said, adding that the Hurricanes had learned firsthand “the relentless nature of this virus,’’ regardless of having respect for it since the beginning of the pandemic. “We can see what’s going on with the numbers and where they’re headed and it’s hard to stop.’’
James was interviewed Friday on WQAM by longtime UM broadcasters Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr. and expressed tempered hope that the Canes would be able to play the Wake Forest game.
“It’s a situation where as we sit here today from a Miami perspective I think we’ll be ready to go next Saturday against Wake Forest,’’ James said. “Obviously you can’t control a pandemic so you never know what will happen.”
Wake Forest (4-3, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) previously had canceled its Nov. 21 rivalry game with Duke this past Saturday because of the Demon Deacons’ COVID-19 outbreak. Their next game was supposed to be the Dec. 5 Miami game.
“I’m not sure where Wake Forest is,’’ James said Friday, “but in talking with their athletic director earlier this week we’ll have another football game.”
James told WQAM the morning after UM got the news about the end-of-season changes earlier this month that he was well aware that “as we deal with COVID, things are constantly changing. Back in August when we first released the schedule I had made a statement that if we can get eight games in it’s a success. To think that we’re eight games in, yeah, it’s been successful.
“Do I want to get all 11 [games] in? Without a doubt... You don’t know where this is going with everyone else. Who knows?”
As of Saturday, more than 100 FBS games had been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus.
Miami has won four consecutive games and has had its best start to a season since 2017, when the Canes finshed 10-3.
Now it’s anyone’s guess what will transpire, especially because of UM’s own COVID-19 troubles. The Hurricanes, as with all ACC teams, are tested for the virus at least three times a week. Testing next week would prove whether or not the Hurricanes would have had enough players to compete even if Wake were fine.
In its release Saturday about the UM at Wake game, the ACC noted that “through games of Nov. 21, the ACC has played 69 of its 78 scheduled games (88.5 percent). Six of those games have been rescheduled, one non-conference opponent was replaced, one game was canceled and one game was postponed. There have been several changes to the last four weeks of the schedule that can be found at theacc.com.”